DeNiro is certainly a heavyweight when it comes to film in general, and his previous directorial feature, 1993's A Bronx Tale, was a classic piece of storytelling. But without decent material, I get the feeling that the actor/director/producer wouldn't be able to do much more than stare blankly into space. A reporter covering the Tribeca Film Festival once asked him how he thought aliens landing in New York would react to the event and all he could say was "I'm not good at questions like that". Anyway, there is decent material here, but it makes for somewhat less than compelling cinema. In fact, Francis Ford Coppola was originally slated to direct but dropped out, complaining that he couldn't relate to the characters and found them unemotional. I like a slow burner as much as the next person, but this one would work better as an abridged dinnertime story told by your uncle instead of a nearly-3-hour epic.